Ella Yelich-O'Connor, better known as Lorde, is hot property right now. At just 16, the New Zealander, who displaced Miley Cyrus at the top of the iTunes singles charts last week (and incurred the wrath of many Miley fans), has already performed alongside Kanye West and Kings of Leon and makes a heady pop brew that's part Lana Del Rey, part Burial, all beautiful. Ahead of the release of her debut album 'Pure Heroine,' on September 30 (available on iTunes), and her performance at the Decibel Festival in Seattle this week, we met her to find out what she thinks about the mad ride she's currently on.
When did you start developing your own taste in music?
I was probably 12, 13 years old when I began to really discover music. One of the first bands I really liked was Animal Collective. At the time I listened exclusively to pop. Animal Collective make pop music, too, but in a way that sounded new to me, strange and different. 'Merriweather Post Pavilion' was one of my first true favorite albums.
Was music the first medium you used to express your feelings?
No, I used to write short stories. I started very, very early.
I’m very reserved... I need some self-confidence to continue making music, giving interviews and performing.
When did you move from penning those to writing pop songs?
I've been singing since I was a young girl and one day I appeared in a talent show at school. Somehow this fell into the hands of Universal who contacted me and offered me a so-called ‘development deal’. I was 12 and thought: Why not? I didn’t have anything else planned, so I just started to write songs. It took a while, but eventually I realized I like writing songs even more.
When you finally started making music who were your inspirations?
When I started making music, I saw myself primarily as a writer. The lyrics, and what I had to say, were most important to me. But I did have musical inspirations. At the time I’d just fallen in love with electronic music, artists like James Blake, Jai Paul and Burial.
If I'm in the studio, I don’t just fool around. I'm a control freak and want my music to sound 100 percent the way I want it to.
Did it take you long to find your name and sound?
No, the name came very late – not even a year ago after I’d finished my EP, 'The Love Club.' I worked with my producers, learning all the time, for three to four months without a concrete goal. And then I wrote the EP in June last year during my school holidays.
Was it planned from the beginning that you’d take the first five songs for 'The Love Club' and only then to start recording the debut album?
Exactly. Actually, although we planned to make more songs after the EP before we started on the album. When we released the first song that’s on Soundcloud, people began to notice us but not many. But then suddenly everything went so fast -- through the roof.
The album title is very confident, but you’ve described yourself as shy in interviews. Who’s the real Lorde?
I’m very reserved. On the EP, there’s a song called 'Bravado,' which for me means having courage. I need some self-confidence to continue making music, giving interviews and performing. I don’t know, I think it’s good to have this artist's persona, someone I can live through but take a break from in my private life.
So Lorde is not a fictional character?
No, it’s simply a more confident version of myself.
So many songs sound stupid and embarrassing, but I think pop can work brilliantly with intelligent lyrics.
You obviously approach songwriting with ambition and seriousness.
If I'm in the studio, I don’t just fool around. I'm a control freak and want my music to sound 100 percent the way I want it to. I try to create art that means a lot to me, that expresses my emotions. Without seriousness, I’d never create anything I could be truly happy with.
But you’re not just making art for art's sake now – you're about to become a pop star. Are you okay with that?
I've always been fascinated by pop music. You can’t escape its directness – and the right song can make people all over the world so happy. But of course pop is sometimes a dirty word. So many songs sound stupid and embarrassing, but I think pop can work brilliantly with intelligent lyrics. And that’s what I want to do: create well-crafted pop music accessible to everyone. Songs that you can dance to, but also listen to at home alone.
Things are moving so fast – do you have time to reflect on what’s happening?
You just get used to having to adapt quickly to new situations. For example, I made an appearance on [British TV show] 'Later… with Jools Holland' with Kanye West and Kings of Leon and, of course, that’s a completely crazy situation. But when you’re thrown into something like that unprepared you get used to it faster than you would like.
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